Your 24 hours in a French city can’t be started without coffee. Montpellier houses cafés at every corner, as you can imagine, so really it’s a case of choosing one you fancy. Head to Montpellier’s main square – Place de la Comédie – to take in the main hustle and bustle or a local favourite of Place Jean Jaurès and Place Saint Come.
Montpellier’s old town, Écusson, is a delight and after getting your morning caffeine fix, lose yourself in its streets until lunch time. One stop should be the Carré Sainte Anne, a renovated church that now houses art exhibitions throughout the year. Entry is free, so there’s no stressing on having to love the exhibits! Another must-stop if you are an art lover is the celebrated Musée Fabre, one of Montpellier’s most-visited sights. Smaller galleries that you can add to your list include Cubik and Galerie 13.
Lunch is the time to eat out in France. It’s excellent value and the atmosphere is buzzing with restaurants and cafés – with everyone enjoying the stereotypical French lunchtime ‘pause’. There are so many eateries in the old town it’s almost hard to pick but some of our favourites are: Le Bistro Urbain for beautifully presented, traditional French food; Les Bains de Montpellier for a terrace setting in a former baths and Empanadas Club for exactly what is says on the tin!
Montpellier has so many sights outside of the old town. Now it’s time for a spot of walking, to take in some of the main landmarks. The Cathédrale St-Pierre is a good place to start as it borders the old town. It was converted into a cathedral in 1536 and adjacent to it lies Montpellier’s Faculty of Medicine, housed in the former cloister of the monastery of Saint-Benoît. Wander the botanical garden next door – Jardin des plantes de Montpellier – that is well worth a visit, being one of the oldest botanical gardens in France.
Next, walk to Montpellier’s Arc de Trimophe, also known as Port du Peyrou. This is the entrance to the Royal Palace of the Peyrou and was built as a dedication to the glory of King Louis XIV of France, the ‘Sun King’. Walk up the imposing promenade to the water tower Château d’eau. This was built at the same time as Montpellier’s aqueduct in the 18th century to distribute water from the River Lez. The Saint-Clément Aqueduct will be the next and last landmark you see on this stretch. What a view out over the arches.
You can also read our Walking Tour Guide of Montpellier’s Architectural Landmarks.
The neighbourhood of Antigone is a dream, in terms of its architecture. It’s also a refreshing change from the winding streets of the old town. It is a dominating area of the city (around 90 acres) that used to be army barracks, and its wide avenues and imposing squares still feel futuristic even though it was realised in the 1970s. Great photo opportunities and you can look into the shopping centre Polygone, too.
Now’s the time to get the evening started. Locals are finishing up work and those on holiday are ready for a tipple. Head to the Place de la Comédie: Montpellier’s largest square. With its imposing buildings and the city’s Opera Theatre at one end, it makes for the perfect place to watch the afternoon slip away.
Since you’ve been exploring the old town and the north edge of central Montpellier today, for the evening we’re taking you south, along the River Lez to Marché du Lez. This is one of the hottest venues in the city and practically its own village within Montpellier. Former industrial and agricultural premises have been transformed into an art hot-spot for creative minds and those after something a little different on a larger scale.
Here is a handy map for when you visit.
You might want to while away the night at Marché du Lez and we wouldn’t blame you. Montpellier comes alive at night, with its young and student population making every pocket of the city an attractive venue for your next drink. If you’re looking for somewhere for a cocktail in particular, however, then there’s nowhere better in our eyes than Papa Doble. Cheers!